Postal Service, Greece, Summer Cocktails: Your Friday Evening Briefing


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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. The Postal Service warned it may not meet some states’ mail-in ballot deadlines.

In a letter sent in July to states across the country — including the election battleground states of Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan — the general counsel for the Postal Service said their deadlines created a risk “that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted.”

He urged states to require residents to request ballots at least 15 days before an election — rather than just the four days allowed under some state laws. It was the latest development in a growing controversy over the new postmaster general’s handling of vote-by-mail operations.

2. Even as the coronavirus spread, Americans kept shopping in July.

U.S. retail sales rose by 1.2 percent, returning to pre-pandemic levels. But much of the spending was helped by $600 weekly unemployment assistance payments, which expired at the end of last month. Above, John’s Grocery in Iowa City last month.

Despite the momentary bright spot, the long-term financial damage to states may be greater than in the last recession, economists say. State governments are experiencing extreme budget problems as tax revenues fall and unemployment and health costs soar. One estimate found that states could face a gap of at least $555 billion through the 2022 fiscal year.

Providing more aid to state and local governments has become one of the biggest sticking points of another pandemic rescue package.

3. A new study suggests that extreme obesity puts men — but not women — at higher risk of death from Covid-19.

Researchers analyzed thousands of patients at a Southern California health system and found that extreme obesity was a risk factor for dying, and particularly among men and patients 60 or younger. But among women infected with the illness, body mass index did not appear to independently increase their risk of dying at any age, possibly because women carry weight differently than do men. Above, a patient who died from Covid-19 in Houston.

In other developments, clinical trials for some of the most promising experimental drugs for the coronavirus are taking longer than expected. Researchers at a dozen trial sites said that testing delays, staffing shortages and reluctant patients are causing them to delay potential treatments by week or months.

4. Joe Biden’s search for a running mate was a process shaped by questions of loyalty. In the end, no candidate scored as highly as Kamala Harris.

The senator from California was one of four final contenders, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the former national security adviser Susan Rice. The process resulted in new political alliances, deepened existing rivalries and elevated a cohort of women as leaders in the Democratic Party. Here’s how Mr. Biden decided.

Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden got right to work yesterday: They received a briefing on Covid-19 from public health experts in Wilmington, Del., above.

5. In other news from Washington:

A former F.B.I. lawyer plans to plead guilty to falsifying a document in a deal with prosecutors reviewing the Russia inquiry. But prosecutors are not expected to reveal any evidence of a broad anti-Trump conspiracy among law enforcement officials. Above, F.B.I. headquarters in Washington.

And President Trump’s top two Homeland Security officials are illegally serving in their positions, a congressional watchdog reported. Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, and Kenneth Cuccinelli, his deputy, were given appointments that violated the laws governing who can fill Senate-confirmed positions. Congress could try to force their removals.

6. Greece is secretly expelling migrants by dropping them at sea.

According to an analysis by The Times, at least 1,072 asylum seekers since March have been taken out to sea and abandoned by Greek officials in at least 31 separate expulsions. The illegal removals are the most direct and sustained attempt by a European country to block maritime migration.

“I left Syria for fear of bombing — but when this happened, I wished I’d died under a bomb,” one survivor said.

Across the continent, President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus is clinging to power as voter frustrations mount, following a contentious election that resulted in protests and his opponent’s flight to Lithuania. Workers in state-owned factories, a core part of his base, are threatening to strike unless a fair election is held.

7. Priced out of “learning pods,” families are seeking other options. Shy Rodriguez, above, is trying to recruit other parents to share child care responsibilities.

But experts say fund-raising efforts to hire private tutors are no solution for millions of low-income families juggling the educational, child care and economic challenges of the pandemic. Some cities and districts are working to provide alternatives like limiting class size to the most vulnerable students and creating “learning hubs” to complete online schoolwork.

New York City, the country’s largest school district, is scheduled to reopen in a month, but some principals have begun raising alarms about the system’s readiness.

An analysis in Opinion determined that many school districts planning to reopen should stick to remote learning.

8. One hundred years ago next week, Congress ratified the 19th amendment that granted women the right to vote.

But the story of the path to women’s suffrage is often painted only in broad strokes. The Times gathered seven scholars, authors and thinkers for a discussion of the women who were left out of the history books, ​and how much of what suffragists were fighting for is still relevant.

You can see our full coverage here, including examinations of the roles of queer women, Black suffragists, pictured above in 1910, and Native women. And be sure to keep an eye out for a special print-only section on Sunday.

Also coming Sunday in print: An excerpt from Elana Ferrante’s new novel, “The Lying Life of Adults.”

9. Is it still a beach read without a beach?

This summer may be weird, and you may not be anywhere near a cool ocean breeze, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t indulge in some beach reading. “If you’re not where you thought you’d be, join the club,” our Book Review editor Elisabeth Egan writes. Grab one of these novels, “find a little light and plant yourself in its glow.”

10. And finally, it’s time to crack open a cold one.

The next time you reach for a beer, you may want to look to the rest of your bar. During a scorcher of a summer, beer may just be your perfect mixer: Beer-based drinks tend to be low in alcohol, high in flavor and are often relatively easy and inexpensive.

Rebekah Peppler, a Food contributor who has written about the merits of frozen drinks and Aperol spritzes, recommends a Tequila Soleil (kind of like a Negroni with a spritz), above, or a version of a Picon Bière (served with amaro and orange liqueur). To keep it bubbly, add ice at the end.

Have a refreshing weekend.

Your Evening Briefing is posted at 6 p.m. Eastern.

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